2018 Nissan Leaf
Douglas Stansfield's picture

Does The New 2018 Nissan Leaf Look Matter? Range and Tesla Competition

Spotted in Europe recently was a camouflaged Nissan Leaf suspected to be the 2018 version of the world’s bestselling electric car. We have heard that a redesign was coming and welcomed by many that thought the first-generation Nissan Leaf design was ugly to start with. To me (prior Nissan Leaf driver for 3 years) the styling was extremely functional and space friendly for my daily driving needs.

The most notable changes to the 2018 Nissan Leaf seem to be the head lights. The headlights where initially designed to vent the air around the side mirrors to prevent considerably high levels of wind noise. If these pictures actually are the Nissan Leaf Generation II we are in store for a much more standardized head light assembly compared to the first generation. It looks like the sloped hatchback is retained but at a slightly more forward angle. The car does seem to be shorter than the generation one version of the car and seems to be slightly longer. This could be an attempt to streamline the car even more to help impact the range as the range play is what has slowed down Nissan’s Leaf’s progress of the last several months in my view.

The Nissan Leaf sold fewer cars compared to the Chevy Bolt in the first two months of the year. With the Chevy Bolt leading in January in sales and the Nissan Leaf outselling the Bolt in February. The Chevy Bolt however is still leading in total sales so far this year ahead of the Nissan Leaf.

Why has Nissan dragged its feet with increasing the range on the Nissan Leaf gen 1?

Since Nissan enjoyed the spot of number one selling EV in the world you would think that they would be trying to stay on the cutting edge of technology since they blazed a trail with the Nissan Leaf in the first place. In the first 5 years of it existence the Leaf has pretty much stayed around the 100 miles range number. Why? How hard would it have been to add in some extra KWHs of cells as the price of LiFePo4 batteries has been dropping over the last few years.

Rather than add more batteries in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the car is still sitting in the back of the pack now behind the Chevy Bolt because they didn’t add in the extra capacity. At the very least, they should have offered the Nissan Leaf with a variety of range packages. Just like Tesla did with the Model S giving it a variety of choices in terms of KWH of capacity. Remember battery capacity equals range! Instead of making these decisions they sat back and let the competition jump ahead of them. That truly is a tragedy as customer loyalty has been eroded.

For example, I had planned in 2013 to Lease my Nissan Leaf for three years, fully expecting the Nissan Leaf to have a longer range option available in 2016 when my lease ended. Instead, there was nothing except about 10 more additional miles had been added in terms of range. This was unacceptable to me so I just returned the car and have now left the Nissan fold. Had Nissan delivered a 2017 model with 200 miles of range in October of 2016 when I had to return my Nissan Leaf, I would have jumped at the chance to get the 200 miles range Leaf! Instead I have to wait and just this past week, there is a black brand new Chevy Bolt sitting at my local NJ dealer waiting for me.

Nissan Incentives To Help Current Leaf Leases Migrate To Longer Range Leafs

Now Nissan dealers are giving incentives to Leaf leases to keep their leases longer so that they can migrate to the longer range Nissan Leaf once it becomes available. Is this too little too late? Time will tell but there seems to be no reason if you are serious about increasing your EV range not to consider looking for a Chevy Bolt in your area. With 238 EPA rated EV miles for a $37k range car, there is really very little holding you back to keep leasing an outdated Nissan Leaf with sub par EV Range.

As we are approaching the NY Auto Show in the coming weeks, I’m extremely interested to interview some people from Nissan about their decision making regarding the marketing and technological improvements scheduling that has been done on this car. I’m still a big fan of Nissan and the Leaf but I’m very disappointed about the way they have handled this transition. What is holding back EV adoption in the USA is the lack of range in electric cars.

Will the 2018 Leaf design changes make a difference?
The design changes may be an attempt to improve the range of the Leaf. I hope it is for that very reason. If the design changes are just to make the car less ugly, than I’m not sure they have succeeded either way.

Will the self driving improvements that have been made with the Leaf continue to help sell it? While Tesla has jumped ahead and created a data logging collection of self improving automotive excellence, I expect Nissan to be right up there in front. They have the opportunity to do this and it can only happen if they start to migrate the range up to competitive levels.

So if you had the chance to ask Carlos Ghosn a question what would it be? Please post your questions below and maybe we can ask Carlos for an interview soon.

Also Read: New Nissan LEAF with 200 Mile Range vs Tesla Model 3: What Do You Do Now?

Image: Nissan's IDS concept, which may be the future look of Nissan's 200 mile range LEAF.

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The Tesla model 3 has great specs and is technically shipping but is effectively vapor-ware for those who have no intention in piling on the features. For those who are driving EVs for reliability and money savings, its basically the Nissan LEAF or the Chevy Bolt, because they can actually be purchased immediately, on the spot, with money in hand. Based on the news out there, I'd expect a new quality set of tires to wear out before I can do the same with a Tesla model 3 which is a shame considering its a great car and the Supercharger network rocks. Its just not an option for the average guy who needs to watch his money and/or someone who needs an immediate car replacement. My LEAF lease finishes in April 2018. If the new LEAF is a strong product for value, I'm in. Otherwise I may just spend a few thousand on an old model and/or take a serious look at the Chevy Bolt. Its up to Nissan to make it or blow it for me. Looking forward to Sept. 1st.